Stop Food Waste Day on April 27th this year is all about raising awareness, igniting change and identifying more ways to change our behaviour and minimise food waste.
You’ll all be familiar with at least some of the statistics. 33% of all the food produced globally is lost or wasted but did you know that 45% of all root crops grown never reach the table.
Just 25% of all the food wasted could feed all the 95 million undernourished people in the world and 8% of all the greenhouse gas emissions each year are due to food loss or waste. Shameful statistics – a massive issue for the planet and each and every one of us.
Here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School, even though we’ve got a strong focus on Zero Waste, we’ve still on a journey, gradually discovering and sharing more innovative ways to avoid food waste, we continue to encourage students to be mindful about simple things like throwing the veg peelings and herb stalks into the stock pot rather than the bin. Scraps that don’t qualify for the stock pot go into the hen’s bucket in every kitchen to be recycled by the hens to come back as beautiful fresh eggs a few days later. The shells go back into the hen’s bucket to add calcium to the shells of future eggs (and no it doesn’t encourage them to peck the shells of freshly laid eggs!).
For many, unconscious wasting has become an acceptable way of life – it may surprise many to realise that this is a relatively new phenomenon. When I was a child in the 1950’s, waste was not an option, all leftover scraps were used up deliciously, clothes and machinery were mended rather than discarded and built-in obsolescence was not a thing. Hopefully as public opinion becomes more intolerant of the mantra ‘better to buy new than to fix, companies will be forced to rethink their policies.
But back to food and what we can do in our homes and restaurants. Cheap food is certainly part of the problem – ‘easy come, easy go’ but with cost spiralling, working towards a ‘Zero Waste’ policy in our homes or businesses was never more timely. It may take a fundamental change in mindset for all the family or team but quite quickly it can become part of the ethos with everyone entering into the spirit. There’s also a brilliant feel-good factor – good for the environment, your pocket and your business….
Start to cast an ‘eagle eye’ over what’s going into the bins. Ideally plates should be empty after a meal. If not, ask yourself, WHY?
Are portions too large or perhaps it doesn’t taste good. Zone in on the cause and remedy… We need to view waste as ‘tearing up bank notes’. Every morsel of waste matters…and in restaurants, the head chefs’ attitude to waste can quite easily be the difference between profit and loss in a business where margins are already tight.
At home, you’ll be astonished how much money can be saved weekly once you focus on food waste. We need to be conscientious ourselves and lead by example. Chefs can scrutinise the menu, examine every single dish and ask – are we using every scrap of each ingredient, from ‘nose to tail’ and ‘root to shoot’. Choose recipes that won’t result in waste. Often though not always, fine dining restaurants are the most wasteful. Long tasting menus that only utilize the choicest of morsels can result in the trimmings being dumped.
Make stock with meat, fish bones, poultry carcasses and vegetable trimmings. This ought to be part of the work ethic. Use as a base for soups, broths and sauces.
Stock can be frozen in recycled plastic gallon cream containers.
Both at home and in restaurants, listen to requests. If someone asks for a small helping…. one piece of toast for breakfast or one slice of bread with a soup – that is what they want, don’t give them two! One can always offer a second helping…
Relearn and teach your family and team the almost ‘forgotten skill’ of using leftovers to make delicious new dishes.
Leftover bread can be used in a myriad of ways to make other dishes such as bread and butter pudding, strata, French toast, breadcrumbs, croutons, pangrattato, croutini, crostini…
Link in with local farmers/vegetable growers to buy ‘ugly’ fruit and vegetables and gluts in season, use all parts of the vegetable. Make it a priority to pay them a fair price. It’s possible to get 2 or 3 uses from many vegetables – e.g. beets – one can use the roots, stalks and young leaves in different ways. It’s a valuable and fun exercise to educate yourself and your team by visiting the producers and learning about their process.
Encourage supermarkets and local shops to sell ‘less than perfectly shaped and sized fruit and vegetables. They are just as delicious and can be sold for 30% less. This minimises the waste on the farm and increases the farmers income. According to the WHO, over 15% of food is lost before leaving the farm in great part due to supermarkets criteria for perfect produce.
Reducing waste is one of the most immediate and impactful actions we as individuals can do to fight climate change.
Have a stock box in your freezer (broth).
Whizz leftover Parmesan cheese rind in the food-processor and use in a Béchamel Sauce.
Leftover cooked fish.
Leftover cooked fish can be used in a myriad of ways – in salads, pastas, grain bowls, sandwiches, rice paper rolls, fish cakes. If you have leftover raw fish, it’s really best to slowly poach it either in olive oil or fish stock, that way it keeps way better. Once it’s carefully poached, it’s less time sensitive and can be used in all kinds of recipes for several days.
How about a simple salad. Just flake the fish ‘confit’, mix gently with mayo or aioli, lots of freshly chopped herbs – chives, parsley, chervil, maybe fennel, a little pinch of mild chilli flakes, maybe piment d’ espelette or Aleppo pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. Taste, season and pile onto toast or crackers to enjoy with a glass of dry white wine.
Alternatively, if you like crudo or
lightly pickled fish. Sprinkle lightly
with salt and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight if it’s a thick
piece. For extra excitement, add a
sprinkling of fennel seeds, maybe paprika or chilli flakes or freshly squeezed
lemon juice – experiment. One could also
cook it lightly and add to pasta or a salad.
Crispy Rice Cakes with Salmon, Avocado and Pickled Ginger
Ordinary cooked rice works perfectly too, though it’s not as sticky.
leftover sushi rice or sticky rice
flaky sea salt
extra virgin olive oil
smoked salmon or gravlax
wedges of avocado
horseradish sauce or wasabi
coriander sprigs (optional)
Line the base and sides of a small ‘lasagne’ dish with parchment paper. Press the cooked rice into the dish so it’s about 1cm (1/2 inch) deep. Cover and pop the block into the freezer for about 45 minutes.
Then unwrap, season with flaky sea salt. Dust both sides with a little seasoned flour or cornflour. Cut into fingers about 6 x 4cm (2 1/2 x 1 1/2 inch).
Heat a little extra virgin olive oil in a wide, heavy frying pan. Cook until crisp and golden on all sides (4-5 minutes). Cool a little, spread a little horseradish sauce on each, add a strip of smoked salmon or gravlax, a wedge of avocado and a little pickled ginger and maybe a sprig of coriander. Alternatively, use raw wild salmon when available and a dash of wasabi. Dip in soy sauce and Enjoy!
Basic Sushi Rice
Easy to do but just follow the instructions.
450g (1lb) sushi rice “No 1 Extra Fancy”
600ml (1 pint) water
50ml (2fl oz) rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
Rinse the rice for 8-10 minutes in a colander or sieve under cold running water or until the water becomes clear.
‘Wake up’ the rice by sitting it in 600ml (1 pint) cold water for 30 to 45 minutes. In the same water, bring to the boil and then cook for 10 minutes until all the water has been absorbed. Do not stir, do not even take off the lid. Turn up the heat for 10 seconds before turning the heat off. Remove the lid, place a tea towel over the rice, replace the lid and sit for 20 minutes.
Mix the rice wine vinegar, sugar and salt together in a bowl until dissolved. Turn the rice out onto a big flat plate (preferably wooden). While the rice is still hot, pour the vinegar solution over the rice and mix the rice and vinegar together in a slicing action with the aid of a wooden spoon. Don’t stir. You must do it quickly, preferably fanning the rice with the fan. This is much easier if you have a helper. Allow to cool on the plate, cover with a tea towel and use as desired. (It will soak up the liquid as it cools.)
Mashed Potato Pizza
Of course one can make potato cakes or croquettes but how about this potato pizza.
Leftover mashed potato
chorizo or pepperoni, diced
Tomato Fondue or homemade tomato sauce
Mozzarella or bocconcini
grated cheese, Parmesan, Pecorino or a mature Irish Cheddar cheese
flaky sea salt
oregano, basil or parsley sprigs to sprinkle
Preheat the oven to 250˚C/500˚F/Gas Mark 10.
Spread the well-seasoned mashed potato into a well-oiled, hot metal dish or iron pan. Sprinkle with little cubes of chorizo or pepperoni or ‘nduja. Top with a layer of tomato fondue. Add a few blobs of Mozzarella or bocconcini and sprinkle with grated cheese. Pop into an oven and cook for 8-10 minutes until hot throughout and bubbling and golden. Sprinkle with sprigs of fresh herbs and a few flakes of sea salt.
Slide onto a hot plate and enjoy. Needless to say, one can do all kinds of riffs on this theme depending on what looks enticing in your fridge. I also love Turkish lamb mince made with:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
225g (8oz) freshly minced lamb
4 ripe tomatoes, finely diced
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped
salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin or pinch of cayenne (optional)
Sweat the onion in a little butter or oil and allow to cool completely. Mix all the ingredients together and season well with salt and pepper.
Potato Peel Crisps
A brilliant and super tasty way to use potato peelings – you’ll never chuck them out again.
Main crop potatoes are best for this recipe. Scrub the potatoes well. Heat the oil (dripping/beef fat) in a deep fat fryer or in a pan with at least 4cm (1 1/2 inch) of oil if unavailable. Dry the peelings as best you can.
Drop one into the hot oil to check the temperature, it should bubble and rise to the surface if the oil is hot enough.
Cook the remainder of the peelings in batches until golden brown and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper, or a towel.
Sprinkle with pure salt and maybe a little
chilli powder or dry roasted cumin powder for extra fizz.
Scones or Hot Cross Bun French Toast
A super delicious way to use up those stale scones or buns, you discover in the bottom of the bread bin!
2 stale scones or hot cross buns
3 organic free-range eggs
150ml (5fl oz) cream
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon (optional)
crème fraiche or softly whipped cream
mint sprigs or shredded mint leaves
Whisk the egg with the cream and add a pinch of cinnamon if using. Pour onto a deep plate. Split the scones or hot cross buns. Put cut side down and allow to soak up the mixture. Flip over and wait until both sides are saturated.
Meanwhile, melt a little butter on a medium heat, cook gently on both sides until golden.
Serve on hot plates with a blob of crème fraiche or softly whipped cream and a sprig of mint or some shredded fresh mint if available.
Moroccan Style Stew
A scrummy way to use leftover lamb, beef, pork or chicken.
15g (generous 1/2oz) butter
2 onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 x 400g (14oz) tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 x 400g (14oz) tin of tomatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
juice of 1 lemon (or lime)
450ml (16fl oz) homemade vegetable or chicken stock (plus more if needed)
1 large bunch of fresh coriander or parsley, finely chopped (or a mixture of both)
1 tablespoon shredded mint
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon or more cayenne pepper or chilli flakes depending on how feisty you’d like the flavour
leftover roast lamb (beef, pork or chicken), diced
Heat the butter and oil mixture in a large saucepan. Add the onion and gently fry for about 10 minutes until soft and slightly golden. Add the garlic and stir a couple of times.
Add the drained chickpeas and chopped tomatoes. Stir, then add the turmeric, honey, ginger, cinnamon, salt and freshly ground black pepper and the freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Add the stock, bring to the boil and then simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes, until the liquid has reduced but not dried out completely. Top up with more liquid if necessary.
About 10 minutes before the end, add the chopped coriander and/or parsley, 1 tablespoon of fresh mint, paprika and cayenne or chilli flakes.
About 5 minutes before the end, add the leftover diced roast lamb, beef, pork or chicken.
Check the seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if necessary.
Sprinkle with lots of fresh herbs.
Tip: Add additional vegetables such as red peppers or cooked potatoes.